The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on legal issues within the Province of Alberta. The purpose of this topic is to inform you of your legal rights and responsibilities. This is not legal advice. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.
This topic will discuss the various types of tickets that a person may receive for traffic offences.
Types of Traffic Tickets in Alberta
Traffic tickets include:
- (1) Traffic tags;
- (2) Traffic tickets with a specified penalty amount;
- (3) Multi-Nova speeding tickets (photo radar); or
- (4) Traffic summons to appear in Court.
Traffic tickets are issued under different legislation or rules. A traffic ticket may be issued for an offence under the Alberta Traffic Safety Act, federal laws, or the local by-laws of a town or city.
(1) Traffic Tags
A traffic tag is issued by a city or town where the traffic offence was committed. Any city or town has the authority to make and enforce laws for their own traffic control and parking. The most common form of traffic tag is a parking ticket.
(2) Traffic Tickets with a Specified Penalty Amount
A specified penalty traffic ticket will indicate a specified fine on the ticket. There will also be a Court date provided on the ticket. There are numerous offences for which a traffic ticket may be issued, including:
- (1) Speeding;
- (2) Failing to stop at a stop sign;
- (3) Making an unsafe lane change;
- (4) Driving without a license; or
- (5) Driving without insurance.
The specified amount on the traffic ticket may be paid at any time before the Court date specified on the ticket. If the specified amount is paid, you do not need to attend the Court date. However, if you choose not to pay the specified fine, you are required to attend Court on the date provided.
When you attend Court, you must inform them what you intend to do. For example, if you want to dispute the ticket, you must attend Court, enter a plea, and ask for a trial date.
(3) Multi-Nova Speeding Tickets
A Multi-Nova speeding ticket is a notice informing a driver that their vehicle was photographed speeding. The registered owner of the vehicle is liable for the fine, even if they were not driving the vehicle at the time of the photograph.
This type of ticket does not attract any demerit points against the registered owner. There are two options: (a) the fine may be paid before the Court date on the ticket or (b) the fine may not be paid. If the fine goes unpaid, the police will serve the registered owner with a traffic summons to attend Court (see below).
(4) Traffic Summons for Appearance in Court
Traffic summons are issued for more serious traffic violations when the consequences are serious, including: careless driving or a “hit and run” accident. Serious consequences include personal injury or property damage caused by the incident.
A traffic summons may not be issued immediately after the police officers are on the scene of the incident or accident. The police may issue a charge and a traffic summons up to 6 months after the incident or offence. This is why it is essential to write down any details of the incident, even if you were not charged at the time of the police stop (see below).
A traffic summons means that a driver must appear in Court to answer to a charge. If the ticket has the “specified penalties” as “Court”, this indicates that the driver must appear in Court. Upon receiving a traffic summons, there is no option of paying the specified amount instead of attending Court. Attending Court at the specified time is mandatory.
If a driver wishes to plead not guilty to the ticket, they must appear in Court on the date and time (indicated on the ticket) and enter a plea of not guilty. Once the plea is entered, they will receive a trial date.
Receiving a Traffic Ticket
If you have been given a ticket by a police officer, remain calm. Do not start an argument with a police officer about whether you deserved the ticket. Do not provoke or anger the police officer by displaying a poor attitude or bad manners.
Immediately or soon after receiving the ticket, make detailed notes about what occurred. These notes may be of great assistance if you decide to dispute the ticket in Court. Try and make note of the following details:
- (1) Contact information of all witnesses present at the scene of the incident (names, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses);
- (2) The location of all nearby traffic signs and signals;
- (3) Any other vehicles and their positions in relation to your vehicle;
- (4) The road conditions and the weather at the time of the incident; and
- (5) Any other details that may be relevant.
Look to see what kind of traffic ticket you were issued and under what legislation it was issued.
For serious traffic offences the penalty may be a fine or up to 6 months in prison. Serious traffic offences include: a hit and run, speeding, driving on the wrong side of the road, failure to stop at a stop sign or red light, and careless driving. Where the consequences of the offence are serious (personal injury or property damage), a Judge may also decide to suspend the driver’s license.
Less serious traffic offences may result in a fine, a victim fine surcharge, and demerit points.
Dial-A-Law is a Calgary Legal Guidance public service project funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.